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Military Capabilities

Avalon 2017: F-35 transforming US Marine Corps' aviation capabilities

28 February 2017

The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is transforming the aviation combat capabilities of the US Marine Corps (USMC), with early simulated trials showing unprecedented levels of mission success compared with legacy platforms, a senior service official noted on 28 February.

Early combat exercises involving the type have shown the F-35B to be the best on the block, a senior USMC official said at the Avalon Airshow. (Lockheed Martin)Early combat exercises involving the type have shown the F-35B to be the best on the block, a senior USMC official said at the Avalon Airshow. (Lockheed Martin)

Speaking at the Avalon Airshow on the outskirts of Melbourne, the deputy commandant of USMC aviation, Lieutenant General Jon 'Dog' Davis, said that combat exercises that have involved the F-35B have shown the fifth-generation platform to be superior in just about every facet of capability when compared with older types still being fielded.

"I have never seen capability like the F-35B. For years in training we have been getting our butts kicked - losing half of our aircraft and missing the targets as [those that did survive] manoeuvred to avoid fighters and surface-to-air missiles. Now we are getting all of our F-35Bs in and out of the target area, and we are crushing the target. We are seeing kill ratios of 24:0 [in favour of the F-35B], and we are not losing any of our aircraft at all," Lt Gen Davis said.

The lieutenant general, a former McDonnell Douglas AV-8 Harrier II pilot, noted that the USMC's experience of the F-35B's capabilities is similar to that being reported by the US Air Force (USAF) for its F-35As at the recent Red Flag exercise in Nevada, in which a kill ratio of 15:1 was declared (Lt Gen Davis commented that further analysis has shown the actual ratio to be 15:0). During Red Flag, the USMC contributed four F-35Bs to a 'Blue' force of eight aircraft that went up against a 'Red' force of 20. "The Red force got their clocks cleaned during that exercise - they had a very bad day," he said.

These successes are particularly pleasing to the lieutenant general given that they are showing the superior capabilities of the F-35B at a time when the USMC is still in the process of standing-up its inventory.

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